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DePauw's Lincoln exhibit shows connections between the two

Monday, February 9, 2009

(Photo)
Wes Wilson, Coordinator of Archives and Special Collections at DePauw University shows off some of the photos and books that connect the university to President Abraham Lincoln. The exhibit was put together in honor of Lincolns' upcoming bi-centennial birthday.
On Feb. 12, the nation will celebrate the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday. In honor of that milestone, the DePauw University Library's Archive and Special Collections have put together an exhibit of Lincoln's ties to the University.

"Lincoln spent 14 years in Indiana. It's important that we participate in the celebration. There are a lot of things going on all over the state; DePauw has some great connections to Lincoln. It's been a heck of a lot of fun putting it together," said Wes Wilson, coordinator of Archives and Special Collections.

The exhibit called "DePauw's Lincoln" has several stories connecting the University to Lincoln. The first story begins when a local girl and a DePauw graduate became in-laws to the Lincolns.

According to information in the exhibit, Ann Eliza Peck, born in 1824, was orphaned in her teens and came to live with her uncle, Dr. Lenox M. Knight, in Manhattan. She was a student at Harriet Larrabee's Greencastle Female Collegiate Seminary.

His name was James Harlan from Parke County. He was one of the first students at the fledgling Indiana Asbury University (IAU, now DePauw University).

Harlan probably met Peck when she was a student at Larrabee's Seminary. She married the 1845 IAU graduate, on Nov. 9, 1845, and they moved to Iowa in 1846. The couple later moved to Washington, DC when James became a U.S. Senator from Iowa.

"The Harlan's became friends with the Lincolns in Washington. In fact, Robert Todd Lincoln escorted their daughter, Mary Eunice Harlan, to his father's second inaugural ball. Mary Eunice married Robert Todd Lincoln in 1868 and Matthew Simpson officiated at the ceremony. He had performed the same ceremony for James and Ann Peck Harlan in Greencastle 23 years earlier," explained Wilson.

"It's this family that started here in Greencastle, their children became close and married. Both couples were married by DePauw's first president," said Wilson.

The Robert Todd Lincolns moved to Chicago and began to raise a family. Their children were Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln's only grandchildren.

The tie doesn't end here however. Matthew Simpson who married the couple was IAU's first president. After he left the university he became editor of a Cincinnati based Methodist newspaper. He was elected bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1852 and a national Protestant leader.

He was a supporter of the Union, emancipation and the president. He became acquainted with Abraham Lincoln in Washington.

"He was a gifted speaker and was asked to give the eulogy for Lincoln after he died." explained Wilson.

A second tie to the University and Lincoln is through an 1875 IAU graduate named Jesse W. Weik. He studied history in college and received an appointment as a pension agent from the Department of the Interior in 1882. He was assigned to Springfield, IL.

While there he met Lincoln's former Illinois law partner, William H. Herndon.

Weik began collecting information about Lincoln from family, friends and acquaintances of the president. After returning to Greencastle, he kept up a correspondence with Herndon and eventually the two collaborated on a biography of Lincoln.

In 1887, Herndon came to Greencastle to write. Weik edited Herndon's work and it was published in 1889. An updated version of the book was published in 2006.

"The book is still in circulation. We have one of the original books in the Lincoln exhibit along with the updated version," said Wilson.

There are other connections in the exhibit including a Lincoln biography written and signed by Poet/Writer Carl Sandburg. He visited DePauw in October 1958.

Also in the exhibit is a well-known lecture on the battle of Gettysburg given by history Professor Andrew Wallace Crandall.

"His talk drew people from all over the campus," said Wilson.

There are other minor connections between DePauw and Lincoln through Albert J. Beveridge, Stanley H. Byram and A. W. Crandall.

A copy of the lecture can be heard in the online exhibit at www.depauw.edu/library under News and Events.

Parts of the Lincoln exhibit can be seen on the first floor of the Roy O. West Library at DePauw. It is open to the public. The online exhibit has many more photographs and information with links to references and sources.

Putting the exhibit together took Wilson and his department about two weeks to pull together.

"All the staff pitched in and helped. It will be up through the summer and maybe longer," said Wilson.

He and Professor John Schlotterbeck are planning more events in the fall centered on Lincoln.

"It will include some Lincoln scholars and speakers. Information about it will be published in the DePauw News and online at the Archive Web site.

One point of interest that Wilson discussed with the Banner Graphic is that there is no evidence to support that Lincoln ever stayed in Putnam County while traveling to Washington.

To visit the exhibit online go to www.depauw.edu/library and look under News and Events or stop by the Roy O. West Library at 11 E. Larabee St. and check out the exhibit cases on the first floor.



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